50 Things Everyone Should Do in a Bar at Least Once

Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

It's important to have goals. They're what make us strive to be better people. To see the world. To achieve something greater. To win the World Cup, if we're being super-literal. And even if you spend most of your time in a bar ignoring some of your other life goals -- chief among them "spend less money at the bar" -- that doesn't mean your existence needs to be anything less than aspirational.

Dipping our toes into our inevitable reinvention as a publisher of practical self-help books, here we offer a list of 50 things everybody should do in a bar at least once. How you add to it is up to you… although might we recommend "watch the World Cup" over "play in the World Cup"? Because if you're hitting all of these, you might have sacrificed a little on-field stamina.

Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Buy a round for everyone in the bar

If it's a full bar and you're going top shelf, good on you. But even if you're just buying $1 tallboys for the three other directionless souls who decided to post up in a dimly lit dive at 1pm, you're still making a solid play for bar canonization.

Spin an epic yarn

Don't just tell some bullshit story about a big fish. Enthrall a group of strangers with your every word for at least 15 captivating minutes of storytelling. Stick the landing. Receive generous applause. Accept drinks from all.

Eat some weird shit out of a jar

A pickled egg that's been floating in a vat on the bar since the Bush administration (the first one). Or a pig's foot that's been chilling since your parents were your age.

Get your own signature drink

Not just some stupid drink that the bartender knows to make when you come in. An actual, desirable drink that other people order by saying your name. Make it strong. Make it memorable.

Contemplate the nature of being

For what is a bar if not a place to combine philosophical ponderings with the virtues of Erotic Photo Hunt.

Flaming drink
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Drink something that's been on fire

Bonus points if it's still smoldering. Extra bonus points if it's still on fire. Points lost if you end up in the hospital.

Drink something that's been in somebody's belly button

Preferably before you turn 30. And certainly not courtesy of somebody who's in gym clothes, or whose belly button is the size of a pint glass.

Win at keno

Then immediately swear off gambling in bars forever before spending your winnings on drinks for the table. Or child support.

Get the top score in Erotic Photo Hunt

The one with the dongs AND the one with the bewbs. Have your initials on at least the first three slots in the high score. Then move on to mastering Word Dojo… and make it erotic on your own.

Spend a whole workday drinking

Whether you work remotely or are just emulating Ferris Bueller's troubled, grizzled uncle, find a place where you can check in at 9am and clock out at 5. And by clock out we mean call a cab and go to bed after a long day of "work."

No phone at the bar
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Spend an entire evening without looking at your phone

Not to swipe right. Not to confirm who starred in what movie. Not to say "what up" to friends. Keep it in your pocket -- or at home -- and talk to strangers. Isn't that what bars are for?

Read an entire newspaper

Bonus points if it's the New York Times Sunday edition. But even a small-town bi-monthly will do the trick.

Make a bartender's night with an anonymous, enormous tip

Make it cash. Make it quiet. And make sure you drop it in a place where some other shifty bastard can't swipe it or take credit. 

Pull digits

Preferably on a matchbook. Definitely not by looking over somebody's shoulder like a creep or just writing down a number scrawled on a bathroom stall.

Load up a jukebox with the greatest playlist ever

Ten songs maximum. And as a token of generosity and penance for the takeover, leave at least five credits for other people to follow suit.

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Master a bar game

Be it dominating darts like a British boozehound, making Minnesota Fats look like an amateur pool shark, or running a shuffleboard table like a master tactician, being really, really good at a bar game is essential for any bar-goer's repertoire. It's also really fun when you realize you can dupe strangers out of dollars because you're good at making a ring on a string land on a nail. And no, board games don't count.

Troll the jukebox

If it has Gotye, play it three times. Blame your friend. But no matter what, endure it all like every other poor soul in the bar waiting for the sweet release of… dammit. It's Gotye again, isn't it?

Buy a round for a homeless person

A nice one round. And sit and talk as they enjoy it so nobody treats them poorly for being in the bar. A to-go meal is icing on the cake.

Give a showstopping toast to a room full of strangers

Not some bullshit ancient Gaelic thing you read about on the internet. The kind of toast you might give at a wedding to a crowd of loved ones.

Play on a bar's intramural team

Make yourself part of the portrait on the wall when the kickball/softball/soccer team gets a participation plaque, and thus ensure your own immortality.

pizza at a bar
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Order a delivery pizza to the bar

And share with everybody. Or at least the bartender, who will henceforth be your best friend.

Be the DD

Just once. But DD the shit out of it and make multiple trips if you have to.

Befriend an elderly person with stories to tell

And listen with respect while buying beers for the both of you as you listen to long-winded stories that will blow you away. Do this often.

Become an elderly person with stories to tell

And be listened to with respect while being bought beers for telling long-winded stories you're making up on the spot, just like that old lying bastard you used to talk to here 30 years ago.

Watch your team win a championship

Whether it's your city's NBA squad or your township's Little League team, bask in the fact that sometimes it's better to witness greatness via the glow of TV screens with 20 strangers than amid a crowd of revelers at a stadium. Actually, no, that part's not true. But you really shouldn't be drinking at a Little League game after the last incident…

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Order a classy drink at a dive bar

Realize that listing off all the ingredients for a craft cocktail to the bartender will cost you about $12 less than if you did it at a fancy cocktail bar.

And a shitty drink at a cocktail bar

Realize that ordering a fuzzy navel will still cost you about $12 more than at the dive bar, and will be considerably less boozy. The sight of a bartender in a vest and tie biting his lip as he does it is worth the extra loot.

Be asked to leave, politely...

… by a bartender who actually apologizes for asking you to leave, because you're usually a nice person, but you just can't get away with this kind of shit in public.

Claim a trivia night victory

Bonus points if you go solo in lieu of playing on a team. Victory is worth the inevitable wedgies.

Win a chug-off

Because you're probably never going to win an arm-wrestling contest, but at least you're good at something.

Photo booth make-out session
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Make out with a stranger...

But not heavily. That's gross.

… in a photobooth

Maybe a little more heavily. Immediately destroy all evidence, including the photos. 

Be a hero

Break up a fight with a nonviolent tactic. Perform the Heimlich on somebody who ate a pickled pig's foot a little too quickly. Call a cab for a stranded drinker and drop the cabbie a $20. Save somebody from being hit on by a creep and expect no photo booth action in return. Or just be the person who puts a coaster under the leg of a wobbly pool table. Big or small, be the hero that the bar deserves.

Finish an entire game of Settlers (or at least Connect Four)

Stick it out. Divide. Conquer. Then go home, nerd.

Party with the staff after-hours

In the bar, after it's closed. And because you were invited, not because you fell asleep under a table without anyone noticing until it was too late.

Cigar bar
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Smoke a cigar

In an old-school cigar bar complete with a bookshelf, a fine selection of whiskey, and an unspoken rule that the appearance of a vape pen is grounds for immediate ejection.


Joy? Sadness? Both? Let it rip. Maybe in a corner so you don't bum everybody out.

Make it to last call

Finish your drink last, then leave a big tip for being the straggler.

Watch a shitty band

Stay after and lie about how much you enjoyed it, then ask if they have CDs. Hope they say no.

Fake an accent

And keep it up all night. If somebody calls you out, double down and thicken it.

Fall in love

Deeply but briefly, as if in a dream. Or in a haze. Same thing, right?

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Kill at karaoke

Bring the house down. Do it with anything but Journey or Neil Diamond.

Seamlessly perform a signature bar trick

Bonus points if someone bet you said trick wouldn't work and you came away a few dollars richer.

Write your name on something

But only at the sort of place where that kind of thing is clearly kosher, or at minimum, tolerated.

Celebrate a holiday

Whether you're making an escape from family Thanksgiving or avoiding family Thanksgiving altogether, you can still be thankful -- that the bar was open.

Dole out some life-changing advice

Generally, sometime between drinks three and four is the sweet spot for advice-giving.

Writing at a bar
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Work on your novel/poem/whatever

Don't just sit there with a notepad or a laptop waiting for somebody to ask you what you're doing like half the population of Brooklyn. Actually create something. And maybe set up auto-save before your third round.

Get there before it opens

When the bartender unlocks that door and you're already standing in the doorway anxious to order that first drink, he knows you aren't messing around.

Become a regular

Nobody will tell you you've become a regular. But if you have to ask, you aren't there yet.

Say an Irish goodbye

No making the rounds and letting all your friends know you're calling it a night. Just disappear, decisively and silently. Maybe forever.

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Andy Kryza is a senior editor at Thrillist who has probably eaten more weird things out of jars than the characters in The Walking Dead. Follow him to inevitable botulism @apkryza.